Sunday, October 28, 2012

Mini apple star pies FAIL

I know what you're thinking: What do you mean, "fail?" Those things look pretty good.
Well, hopefully you like crust. And crumbs.

I saw these mini star pies in an Usborne kids' cookbook at a friend's house. With pies-on-the-brain, I thought, hey, those are cute! Let's try it. We have plenty of apples left from our orchard trip, and a box of ready-to-go crust.

Ugh. Do not recommend.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

on the BOOOlevard

Scenes from the BOOOlevard, an annual trick-or-treating event at the shops in Atwater Village, an LA neighborhood.

The Forestman lays down a base, for a night of sugaring. Cue James Bond theme music.

In years past, most of the handouts were stickers, tattoos, pencils, erasers, and plastic crap from Oriental Trading. This year? ALL CANDY. With few exceptions, like this glow-in-the-dark spider ring. Dislike.

The Fairy Witches of Eastwick.  Miss Molly and friends.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Some Corduroy for Corduroy

We had a freakishly normal weather day recently, when it threatened to actually behave like Autumn, instead of offering 90˚ temps. I put Starboy in some pants (!) and explained that they were made of corduroy, and that usually we would call them "cords."

A few minutes later he said he needed his corduroy shirt.

How the hell does he remember he has a corduroy shirt? He wore it maybe twice, and that was months ago.

So I got him the corduroy shirt, and he said, "Now I can be Corduroy."

Well, of course.

So we got out his bear hat, and I wrote a note for his pocket that said "Corduroy," so he could be like the bear in the story. And he was, all day.

I asked him whether I could be Lisa, so I could say, "There you are, you rascal!"

And Starboy said, "No."

Reading Roundup 2012.10.26

Here are a few things I've been reading this week.

Mali: no rhythm or reason as militants declare war on music, Guardian UK (Oct. 23, 2012)

Ali Farka Toure station on Pandora

Are the Benefits of Flax Worth It? Butter Believer (Oct. 8, 2012) H/T to Sweet Ginger Mama.

There are Benefits to Boredom, Boston Globe, (Jan. 22, 2004)

Monday, October 22, 2012

Autumn gnomes and sensory kit

I can never get enough of the Wee Folk Art gnomey peg people! (Check out the comments on that link, there are some other how-tos that are really fun.) Starboy's favorite has a flower button and glitter dots all over.

Another couple of gnomes landed as a bonus in a couple of Autumn sensory bin kits I offered to some mommies, here's hoping the kids will be thrilled with a new playmate!

This particular one was a bit overwhelming for Starboy last year—I'd recommend about half of the junk  wonderful sensory input in it so there is room to play. The mecca of sensory bin ingenuity is at Counting Coconuts, an amazing Montessori homeschool blog.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Autumn nature table at Miss Molly's

Miss Molly has updated her shop window with beautiful Autumn scenes!

 Look at the leaf sprites! And the lovely mini gourd garland.

 Snails, fairies and acorns...

Magic stones, caves and fallen leaves. We love to explore what she creates each season.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Reading Roundup 2012-10-19

Declutter, add rhythm, create blank spaces and give kids kid time, sez Kim John Payne, Ottawa Citizen (Sept. 24, 2012)

Can 'Edu-Toys' do more harm than good?, CBC (Jan. 2005)

We Only Think When Confronted With a Problem, Tinkerlab (Oct. 2012)

Waldorf and Brain Science, The Magic Onions (Oct. 7, 2010)

Students' Traumatic Lives affect teacher's eval, Wash Post (Oct. 14, 2012)

"Something is wrong when...", Wash Post (Oct. 12, 2012)
"Something is very wrong when nine-year-olds sit for tests that are longer than the SAT and the GRE combined."

How to get your kid to listen, Mothering (Aug. 28, 2012)

Every hour of TV you watch after age 25 reduces life expectancy by 22 minutes, NYT (Oct. 17, 2012)

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Spruce up your lunchbox with cloth napkins

I'm trying to make as many handmade gifts as I can for the holidays this year, and for Starboy's friends' birthdays. 

People really don't want more toys—especially here in SoCal where a good closet and storage is hard to find—but nearly everyone has some snack and lunch time away from home. Starboy loves his cloth napkins, and the order of setting up a lunch table in the "right" way.

I made a napkin set for Starboy's pal Mary Jane, and there are a few more of you out there who may be getting some as well. Sorry for the spoiler.

Here's Mary Jane's set in action. She's thrilled!

I love mismatching the napkin and the placemats. Or maybe it's mix-n-matching. These are so fun to make!

The placemats are double-sided, to offer more choices. A small set is at least two napkins and a placemat, though one lucky best friend is getting a week's worth of napkins and placemats for an early Christmas gift. Teachers always can use a little pep, especially when the excitement of the new school year is waning into the fear of the chaos of the holiday season and end-of-marking period.

If schools would just give teachers a nice, free lunch every day, it would buy a boatload of goodwill, even with the crappy pay. But that's maybe a topic for another post. Imagine how nice it could be with cloth napkins and placemats!

The napkins are roughly 15" square—mostly because that was the closest size template I could find to a 17" napkin, which I preferred. But since these are designed for kids' lunch pails, the smaller size actually is an advantage.

The napkins are simply a rolled hem; each one took about four minutes to stitch. The placemats are of varying sizes, and are sewn like a bag, with right sides together, then turned inside out and topstitched. They are smaller than a regular placemat since they are designed for a school or break room lunch table that is shared with others, or for any lunch on the go.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Sherwood Forest jubilee

Barclay* and his best friend from school Finn* happen to have birthdays the same week. Finn requested a woodland birthday ages and ages ago, and his genius mother reserved a wonderful group campsite at Black Mountain in the San Bernardino Forest Sherwood Forest for the festivities for both boys, who turned six.

The weather was perfect all weekend—high 60s during the day and only 47 at night. Perfect sleeping weather, even for Starboy!

It was a Robin Hood birthday party. 

The kids sewed their own hats. And later made their own paper crowns.

Finn's dad dressed as the Sheriff of Nottingham, and offered archery training, after showing the kids how to make their own bows and arrows (the dads were all really into this). The archery lesson was totally slapstick, in the style of maybe the Three Stooges, or Oliver Hardy. The kids loved it.

Then he kidnapped the two birthday boys and tied them up and fell asleep. The boys escaped and the Band of Merry Men stole the sheriff's gold and made away for their lair in the hills.

Starboy loved being a forestman.

Even Techman wore his hat all day.

One of the more interesting gifts, in my opinion, was this great book. Lots of great ideas and easy-to-understand illustrations. However, these were given nary a glance, in favor of two Hot Wheels-style motorcycles, which were so popular they had to be disappeared until the trip home.

It was great family time and a great weekend. Love!

*Nearly everyone gets a code name here, to help with privacy.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Ready for Sherwood Forest

With his fairy adventures behind him, and now attuned to the "themed" blockbuster birthday party, Starboy suited up as a forestman for a Robin Hood themed birthday campout at San Bernardino Forest's Black Mountain Sherwood Forest last weekend.

Thinking that a great costume might be a giant step ahead for Halloween in a few weeks, I decided to go for it and do the whole shebang—hat, tunic, cape, details. Truth be told, I also was inspired by Jim at Sweet Juniper, in my hometown, but he's a tough act to follow.

I haven't sewn from a store-bought pattern since seventh grade home ec. But how hard could it be? I used McCall's 2854.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Fairy Party—gnome hats

Thinking that some of the kids might want to be a gnome instead of a fairy, I thought I should whip up some gnome hats before the party, so everyone could feel included. I think I got two yards of red eco felt at 40-50% off, so the cost for about a dozen hats was something like eight bucks.

These hats were a little different from the Red Gnome hats I made this time last year. Those were secure, and very German, but since they covered the ears it was sort of a weird experience wearing them. Not great for a party.

I used the dimensions on Tradewind Tiaras for a traditional cone hat, and they worked great. I added about an inch to them for the kids with bigger heads (I made only two of these, and that was plenty. They would have fit some adults as well.) I sewed the seam on the machine then turned them inside out. Didn't take long at all.

I also used her trick of a flower hair clip as a decoration on the hat—thank you, 99-cent Only store.

Of course, the option of a hat meant that some kids wanted to be both a gnome and a fairy. I expected that.

What I didn't expect was that some kids wanted to decorate the hats! It just goes to show: where there is a glue gun and pieces of faux nature, there will be endless creativity.

Hey. She's a kid at heart.

It occurred to me that I didn't really have to go to the trouble of the flower fairies and the gardens at all. I should have just offered the hat project! Sometimes "keeping it simple" is a "hindsight is 20/20" situation for me.

Reading Roundup 2012-10-12

Here are a few things I've been reading this week.

Alfie Kohn: What Do Kids Really Learn From Failure? Huffington Post, (Oct. 3, 2012)
This will give you something to think about....

Alfie Kohn library of articles online. Woot!

Ban under-threes from watching television, says study, The Guardian (Oct. 8, 2012)

Make the perfect grilled cheese sandwich, KCET (Oct 5, 2012).
Brie and jam grilled cheese, now that's what I'm talking about.

Space Shuttle on the move

Starboy wasn't too happy about being wakened at 3am but he brightened instantly when he found out we were going to see the Space Shuttle! We layered him up in fleece long johns and a down jacket.

We chose an LAPD-approved parking lot location to watch the shuttle come up Westchester Blvd. towards La Tijera, then back into a shopping center parking lot. Later today it will continue its journey to the California Science Center, arriving tomorrow night.

 Lots of fans turned out.

We had a front row spot—we thought we'd geniously arrived just 30 minutes before the shuttle would come through, but it was a good 90 minutes late. We were warm and comfortable, but it wouldn't have been bad to have gotten another hour's worth of sleep....

The shuttle's wingspan grazed many trees along the way and tree trimmers drove the route to make last-minute trims as it came through.

The parking lot filled up behind us as we watched. Everyone was so excited!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Fairy Party—reading tent

I fell smitten with the lovely play tents that are all over the blogs these days, and decided that a tent would be a nice respite from party revelry. There were flower fairies hanging inside, and fairy stories.

I used this pattern from Namesake Design, and it could hardly have been easier. The fabric is two vintage sheets from Etsy, which is the key to quick assembly—only four seams! Add a hula hoop, a large ribbon, and some type of decor, and the whole thing was done in under 90 minutes.

Um, except for the photography, which was completely overlooked. Blogger fail. Maybe if you squint you can see this beautiful thing in the background.

The sides could have been staked out a bit, and it was quite warm inside. It also could have used a lot more pillows to sit on. So it didn't get much action. The parents all thought it was a 1920s fairy changing booth. I used a child's hula hoop from the dollar store—a larger one might make for a more spacious tent. Stay tuned. I still can upgrade.

If you can make one out of playsilks, or can afford something like the Sarah's Silks Canopy, that might end up being more versatile. But this one sure came together quickly.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Free Halloween Sparkle Story!

Sparkle Stories is offering a free Halloween story about a baker's son with a magic seed who creates an incredible sparkling lantern. Starboy loves these stories, they are calming and focus his concentration.

In September, they offered another free story, you might like that one as well!

Fairy Party—treats

 See those big, open spots that would have been perfect for quiche?

I'd hoped to do more with my serving table, but with painters pushing up to the last minute and another freakish heat wave, it was not to be. I'd planned on spending bits of the whole week planning, arranging, setting up...but instead I got the second half of the day before the party (after we attended another great birthday party) and up through the night.

Thank God for Venus, who not only helped with the centerpieces—twice—but also stayed late that Saturday night to help me set everything up and make some key decisions. And she loaned us a table.

The lemonade was delicious. I hit about seven different thrift stores to collect punch cups, to avoid throwing away a lot of paper cups. We used some paper cups for coffee. A couple of days before the party I froze lemonade into ice cubes so that the melting ice wouldn't dilute the drinks. It worked great, though it was strong enough I'd suggest having at least 1/4 of your ice be regular ice.

I have a carrot muffin recipe that really is unfrosted cupcakes in disguise. They held up well in the heat and disappeared quickly. Well. Except for the big second container that I forgot to put out.

The infamous challah-hogs. Now that I've made them twice, I can safely recommend that you use some other bread recipe for hedgehogs. The challah doesn't stand up. Though the kids loved the flavor.

"Cloud cookies" from Trader Joe's. Starboy claimed he ate "one" of these, but Techman thinks the number was more like 21. Except for lemonade, I think this was the only thing he ate all day, which made bedtime really fun.

Ladybug apples. I loved this idea, which I saw online. It may have fared better with a pre-test on the chocolate. I melted some dark chocolate in a double boiler with some milk, but as you can see it didn't flow so smoothly through the squeeze bottle. I should have just used frosting.

I put the Thumbstumbler to work making ladybug apples. Because she loves crafting so much. Thankfully, she came an hour early to help out, and finished off the apples, which I really wanted on the table. Lifesaver!!

Wouldn't these have looked cute on the table? Yeah. Too much work. And the nice mozzarella sticks I got wouldn't stand up. Bail, bail, bail. I offered the cheese sticks, but at the last minute (around the time I realized I'd forgotten to serve the quiche, after a lot of people had left), and I had to leave them in the cooler lest they sag in the heat. So...suffice it to say that the week following the party was a heavy cheesestick week for Starboy. Ah well, another time.